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Hot Seat Week 7: Bryan Harsin’s final days, first-year head coaches struggling early

The honeymoon phase doesn’t last very long in college football.

Auburn v Ole Miss
Head coach Bryan Harsin of the Auburn Tigers reacts during the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on October 15, 2022 in Oxford, Mississippi.
Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

Week 7 of the college football season turned things upside down across the country, with Alabama going down in the SEC, Oklahoma State being bounced in the Big 12 and USC suffering a late loss in the Pac-12. The Trojans likely get a pass for this loss under first-year head coach Lincoln Riley but this has been a criticism of his Oklahoma teams. There’s a lot of offense but not a whole lot of anything else. And while that tends to work in conference play, it doesn’t win national titles. Riley isn’t the only first-year coach facing some early scrutiny this season. Before we get to them, let’s start with the War Eagle in the room.

Bryan Harsin, Auburn

At this point, there’s no much else to say regarding Harsin. After a few close losses and some blown leads, the Tigers got smoked by a good Ole Miss team in Week 7. Auburn did have some fight early in the game but just ran out of gas offensively. There’s no progress with this team in Year 2 and while firing a coach early might be hasty, not firing a coach before long-term damage is done is irresponsible. Auburn doesn’t have a no-brainer replacement for Harsin but at this point he’s not the answer. Gus Malzahn wasn’t let go so the Tigers could struggle to hit six wins every year.

First-year head coaches

Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman lost his first two games, causing some immediate concern. In Week 7, his Irish lost to David Shaw’s Stanford squad. Shaw has been a subject of this column before, so losing to him is not exactly going to inspire confidence. Notre Dame tends to be patient with coaches so Freeman will get another season but it hasn’t been a good start.

Billy Napier’s Florida Gators started the season on a high note with a win over a good Utah team. They have now been outclassed in three key SEC games against Kentucky, Tennessee and LSU. It’s only one year and Napier will be given time but expectations started off too high and are now tilted in a way which makes the coach look questionable. Brian Kelly hasn’t exactly thrilled people at LSU either but he’s shown some signs of life after a bad showing in the opener against Florida State.

Oklahoma’s offense kicked into high gear again with Dillon Gabriel’s return but Brent Venables is not getting that defense turned around. The Sooners gave up 42 points to Kansas and have the 101st ranked scoring defense. Oklahoma got the win, so ultimately the job was done, but this is not sustainable in the SEC.

James Franklin, Penn State

Franklin signed a huge extension with the Nittany Lions a season ago and is not in any real danger of being fired. However, going 0-10 against top 10 teams since 2016 is not a great sign for when Penn State eventually believes it should end up. Franklin is going to get another shot at a big win when the Nittany Lions face Ohio State. Will it be 0-11 for the head coach against top 10 schools?

Jeff Scott, South Florida

The Bulls lost to Tulane 45-31 at home, and fell to 1-24 against FBS opponents under Scott. USF has a bye week this week, and what must be done eventually should be done immediately. This team is pretty unwatchable, and unless they can beat Temple (the only non-FCS win Scott has in his career so far), they’re staring 1-11 in Year 3 in the face. Why isn’t this done yet?